What is ZigBee?

What is ZigBee?

Published: 15th May 2015

ZigBee is a global, wireless specification used to link data transfer in wireless networks. Within wireless communications, ZigBee is becoming more readily recognised like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi protocols. However, ZigBee is much more economical than Wi-Fi as it provides low energy consumption through a short-range wireless networking capability.

ZigBee has been developed by the ZigBee Alliance to provide a wireless networking standard aimed at monitoring, control and censoring applications. Thus following the concept that being reactive is key to facilitate efficiency in real-time operation than merely focusing on generating a high bandwidth.

The ZigBee Standards

  • ZigBee 2004: The original release - defined as ZigBee 1.0. It was publicly released in June 2005.
  • ZigBee 2006: ZigBee standard released introduced the concept of a cluster library.
  • ZigBee 2007: It was released publicly in October 2008 and contained two different profile classes.
  • ZigBee PRO: ZigBee PRO was released in 2007. It provides additional capabilities and offers enhanced security. Ideal for most new networks.
  • RF4CE - Radio Frequency for Consumer Electronics was aimed at audio visual applications. It provides the higher application layers. The Version 1.0 was released in 2009.

ZigBee Operation

ZigBee defines a short-range wireless networking capability that spans relevant layers of the OSI 7-layer network communications model, from the physical layer through to the application layer.

Modulation techniques vary according to the band in use. However the system operates in one of three free license bands, operating at 2.4 GHz, 915 MHz for North America and 868 MHz for Europe. This ensures the standard is able to operate around the world, although exact specifications for each band will differ slightly.

The 802.15.4 specification has incorporated a variety of features to ensure reliable operation as systems may operate in areas where interference is high or in heavily congested environments. Such features include; quality assessment, receiver energy detection and clear channel assessment.

Systems utilising ZigBee

ZigBee has a defined rate of 250 k/bit/s and is typically used in low data rate applications which require secure networking and a long battery life. The specification is designed to be simple and less expensive than former wireless personal data networks and is best suited for intermittent data transmissions.

ZigBee technology enables devices to remain in a low-power sleep mode whilst still responding rapidly when necessary. The 802.15.4 specification has combined a variety of features to ensure reliable operation such as; clear channel assessment, receiver energy detection and quality assessment.

Applications utilising ZigBee technology include electrical meters, traffic management systems, wireless light switches and additional consumer and industrial equipment which requires short-range, low-rate wireless data transfer.
MCS Products that utilise ZigBee

MCS provides numerous products which utilise the ZigBee specification, such as the LitePoint ZigBee Software Package which is ideal for testing ZigBee-enabled devices. It provides complete system cost efficiency due to faster test time and therefore a lower test cost.

Also the LitePoint IQ2010 Multicom Test System uses the ZigBee specification and supports parallel testing across technologies such as WLAN, WiMax, GPS and Bluetooth. Additionally, it includes a range of RF ports which enables connection from a number of device configurations.


There has been an increase in the number of wireless standards appearing but ZigBee has not been designed to compete with standards such as Bluetooth or 802.22. Its primary intention is on fulfilling the requirements for remote sensing and control applications.

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